Categories of Indigenous homeless people and good practice responses to their needs
SummaryMainstream concepts of homelessness do not serve Indigenous people well. The research found that for many Indigenous homeless people, finding accommodation is not necessarily their most crucial support need. Indigenous homelessness can be redefined as losing one’s sense of control over, or legitimacy in, the place where one lives. The research identified three broad categories of Indigenous homelessness: public place dwellers; those at risk of homelessness; and spiritually homeless people. Those designing policies or programs for Indigenous homeless people may need to re-think or change their concepts of homeless in order to adequately understand and respond to the needs of this group of people. Indeed, services required by Indigenous people who are regarded as homeless may not necessarily be concerned with housing or accommodation issues.
Project Number: 20168
Research Theme: Homelessness, Indigenous_housing
Project Leader: Memmott, Paul
Funding Year: 2002
Research Centre: Queensland
Research & Policy Bulletin
Issue 042: Re-thinking Indigenous homelessness
Mainstream concepts of homelessness do not serve Indigenous people well. Those designing policies or programs for Indigenous homeless people may need to re-think or change their concepts of homeless in order to adequately understand and respond to the needs of this group of people.
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The project aimed to research the phenomenon of small groups of Indigenous people living in public settings, despite in many cases the advent of formal Town Camps and a range of urban Indigenous housing options having been established in many regional centres throughout the late 20th century (esp. post 1970).
Although these people are often categorised as homeless, a reading of the literature clearly demonstrates the difficulties of conceptualising either mainstream homelessness or Indigenous homelessness. A number of Indigenous itinerant people see themselves as being both placed and homed, and prefer instead to refer to themselves with such labels as parkies, goomies, long grassers, river campers, etc. Indigenous homeless people can be further characterised as people who do not pay for accommodation, have a visible profile (socialise, shelter, drink, argue and fight in public), have low incomes of which a substantial part is often spent on alcohol, have generally few possessions, minimal clothes and bedding, and usually conform to a beat of camping and socialising places in public or semi-public areas.
State and Local government, Indigenous, and charitable groups in most capital cities and regional centres of Australia are facing the problem of responding to Indigenous people residing in public and semi-public places, often accompanied by anti-social behaviour, substance abuse, poor health and short life expectancy. This is becoming an increasing and complex social problem. Yet there is very little published literature on the subject, neither profiling these people nor providing strategies in response to their needs. Nevertheless many local groups have attempted to respond with a range of strategies which are often described in unpublished (and often confidential) documents.
Positioning Paper: No. 053: Categories of Indigenous 'homeless' people and good practice responses to their needs
1.4 MB PDF Document
Final Report: No. 049: Categories of Indigenous 'homeless' people and good practice responses to their needs
266 KB PDF Document
Research and Policy Bulletin: Issue 042: Re-thinking Indigenous homelessness
231 KB PDF Document